• The 'Thicker Than Water' cast. (SBS)Source: SBS
Dark family secrets and Nordic atmosphere? 'Thicker Than Water' is a next-level Scandi Noir.
Shane Cubis

19 May 2017 - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 11:54 AM

With the Scandi Noir genre so well established, recent series have sought to bring fresh approaches to the genre. Thicker Than Water, currently streaming on SBS On Demand with a second season installment coming soon, has shifted up the genre by contrasting the moody subject matter with some of the most gorgeous locations ever seen in a Swedish drama.


It’s set in the gorgeous and atmospheric Åland Islands

First up, let’s set the scenery. Floating in the chilly waters of the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland, the Åland Islands are an idyllic archipelago with beautiful beaches, walkable forest pathways and plenty of bicycle action. It’s here, in the northern summer, that Thicker Than Water takes place, around a family-owned B&B run by Anna-Lisa Waldemar and her son Oskar. Things kick off when Anna-Lisa summons her other two children to the island for a reunion.


It’s a classic tale of intrigue

Head writer Morgan Jensen told The Guardian, “Thicker Than Water is basically a story about family, and that’s something that everybody can relate to, that idea of terrible secrets lurking beneath the surface.” Which not only means it’ll make you feel better about the problems in your own clan, it will also enthral you with a twisted tale of three siblings and their manipulative mother doing all she can to force them together. But, you know, she has her reasons.

She has her reasons

It wouldn’t be Nordic noir – or any noir at all – if the main characters were open and honest about their motives. Instead, Anna-Lisa bends those three children to her will in a classic case of passive-aggressive carrot-and-stick parenting. Suffice it to say, she finds a great way to keep all three of them on the island together for at least a year, without actually forcing any of them to stay. Piecing together the puzzle of what happened in the Waldemars’ past is one of the joys of the series.


The interior design is incredible

“Mid-century modern” doesn’t begin to describe the furnishings scattered about the B&B at the centre of the action. Even if you’re completely ignoring the landscapes, actors and subtitles, there’s plenty to keep your eyeballs occupied. Every indoor scene is laden down with the kind of warm wooden materials and kitschy furniture that fetches an absolute fortune from inner-city hipsters.


My God, it’s full of stars

Thicker Than Water brings together a host of Nordic talent on both sides of the camera, which means you’re looking at the grädde av grädden (according to Google Translate, that’s “crème de la crème” in Swedish). On screen we have Wallander’s Stina Ekblad as Anna-Lisa, Joel Spira (Angelby, Anno 1790) as Oskar, Black Lake’s Aliette Opheim as daughter Jonna and The Last Kingdom’s Björn Bengtsson as other son Lasse. While we’re dropping names, the series was created by Henrik Jansson-Schweizer, who also did Midnight Sun.


Thicker Than Water is streaming now on SBS On Demand:

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